Day 3 completed
|Blinds||1,000,000 / 2,000,000|
Day 3 completed
Skokie, Illinois' Tom Koral, 35, won his second career bracelet after besting a 2,589-player field to win the 2019 World Series of Poker (WSOP) Event #82: $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em Double Stack for $530,164. It was the biggest score of Koral's long-standing poker career and his biggest victory since winning his first bracelet in a $1,500 Stud event in 2017.
Koral denied Dutchman Freek Scholten his first — and Holland's seventh — WSOP gold. Two-time bracelet winner Barry Shulman finished in third place and crossed $5.5 million in lifetime winnings.
While Koral is primarily known for his mixed game chops, winning his second bracelet in the most ubiquitous game of all was special to him.
"It means a lot to me specifically because it's hold'em," Koral said to assorted media directly after his victory. "I think a lot of people look at me as mixed games primarily, so this was kind of my way of showing I could still play hold'em," he chuckled.
"It feels great, it feels incredible, and it's sure gonna take a day or two to settle in."
Koral's career dates all the way back to 2005, and an impressive poker resumé of over $2 million in lifetime cashes on The Hendon Mob shows he's been successful at all the different poker formats for a long time. Koral shared his secrets for staying fresh, sharp and on top of the game.
"I have a brain that's constantly wandering, so especially when I'm out here for six weeks I can really get in the zone and constantly think about poker and poker hands. Always just analyzing myself: win or lose the hand, I'm always analyzing. It's the constant analysis of my own play to get me to where I am."
"Being very self-reflective and being honest with yourself is probably the most important quality you can have as a poker player and I think I do that pretty well."
Final Table Results
|1||Tom Koral||United States||$530,164|
|3||Barry Shulman||United States||$239,187|
|4||Philip Scaletta||United States||$176,219|
|5||Adam Hendrix||United States||$131,001|
|6||Darren Rabinowitz||United States||$98,274|
Paying to learn
In order to become the all-around player he is today, Koral's skills were sharpened by the tough Chicago games that fellow Chicago pro Brett Richey introduced him to. Richey was on the rail to support his friend towards a second victory.
“He got me into the idea of playing some of these mixed games. When I started, actually, I was probably playing way too high of stakes, and I was really bad. I was probably the guy getting followed around at the tables. I was the soft spot,” Koral laughed.
Koral, however, was willing to pay to learn and saw his investment pay off down the road as the former "mark" now has a second bracelet donning his wrist to join the exclusive club of multiple WSOP bracelet winners.
Final Table Action
Koral came back at noon local time together with seven other competitors for an unscheduled third day to play down to a champion. The American was flanked by four countrymen, Scholten from the Netherlands, and two players from India: Kalyan Cheekuri and Kunal Punjwani.
For the Indians, however, the final table would become one to quickly forget. Cheekuri made a move with an underpair but ran his lone pocket fours into a set of sixes to be the first to leave the final table. Punjwani followed him quickly out of the door when his trip sevens got cracked by another pair of sixes, this time improving to a runner-runner straight.
After playing six-handed for a while, the others would drop off one by one as stacks grew shallow with the 40-minute levels. Darren Rabinowitz lost his final scraps to Shulman before Adam Hendrix had to bow to Scholten in the biggest pot of the tournament at that stage. Hendrix four-bet shipped pocket tens into pocket queens, saw no improvement, and had to depart while being second in chips. Scholten propelled himself to a monster stack as a result.
Koral on Key Heads-Up Hands
Scholten also knocked out Philip Scaletta then denied Shulman his attempt to win a third bracelet to start heads-up play sporting a slight lead over his adversary. However, a key hand would soon take place that saw Koral improve to a lead he wouldn't give up. In the pivotal hand, Koral raised with ace-five first to act and saw Scholten throw in a three-bet.
"First of all, he was a very good player. I think good players like to step on the gas early, to let their opponent know they're not going to be pushed around," Koral explained. "So I was expecting to get three-bet early in the heads-up match. I have an ace heads-up and having position is so valuable."
The flop came jack-jack-ten rainbow and Scholten threw out a small continuation-bet. Bets are often polarized here, according to Koral, and he called figuring his ace-high was still good often enough to call one bet. The turn brought an offsuit deuce and Scholten checked. Koral bet 8.5 million, around 40% of the size of the pot, and Scholten called.
"I want to bet my ace-high for value, a little protection. But I also have position, I can put hands like pocket sixes or ace-nine in a really weird spot," Koral explained. As it turned out, Scholten would check-call with king-queen for king-high and the Broadway draw. An offsuit trey landed on the river and both players checked to award the key pot to Koral.
After the key hand, the Chicagoan widened the gap even further before laying a trap that would finish the talented Dutchman off for good. Holding pocket aces, Koral limped the button. Scholten pushed with the queen-trey of diamonds and Koral snapped it off. He held up to become the fifth player of the summer to win the final hand of the tournament holding the blades.
The 2019 World Series of Poker is nearing the end with Event #82: $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em Double Stack drawing to a close. However, with the Main Event in full swing, so make sure to check back regularly to PokerNews and not miss out on any of the updates.
Hand #137: Tom Koral limped and Freek Scholten shoved all in for 20,800,000. When Koral called, they turned over their cards and Scholten saw the bad news.
Koral had trapped with pocket aces and Scholten needed something special to keep him in the game. There was a glimmer of hope on the flop, with Scholten picking up a gutshot draw. The was of no help to the Dutchman and neither was the river.
Scholten narrowly missed out on his first bracelet and received $327,563 for finishing runner up.
Hand #129: Tom Koral raised to 3,200,000 and Freek Scholten called. The flop was and Scholten check-folded to a bet of 3,000,000.
Hand #130: Scholten limped the button, Koral shoved all in and Scholten folded.
Hand #131: Koral raised to 3,200,000 and Scholten folded.
Hand #132: Scholten raised all in for 22,400,000 and Koral folded.
Hand #133: Koral raised to 3,200,000 and Scholten folded.
Hand #134: Koral received a walk.
Hand #135: Koral raised to 3,200,000, Scholten three-bet shoved all in for 20,000,000, and Koral folded.
Hand #136: Scholten limp-folded when Koral set him all in.
Hand #124: Freek Scholten limped and Tom Koral checked. On the flop, Koral check-called 2,000,000 and the dealer placed an on the turn. It checked through to the river and again both players checked. Koral tabled and it was good for the pot.
Hand #125: Koral opened and Scholten folded.
Hand #126: Scholten limped the button, Koral raised to 6,100,000 and took it down.
Hand #127: Koral raised and Scholten called. The flop fell and it went check-check. The turn brought a fourth club and they both checked again. The river was a and neither player wanted to bet. Koral flipped over and his pair of deuces was good against Scholten's .
Hand #128: Scholten limped and Koral checked. On the flop he check-folded to Scholten's 1,600,000 bet.
Hand #119: In the first hand of heads-up, Freek Scholten raised to 3,200,000, Tom Koral three-bet to 10,000,000, and Scholten folded.
Hand #120: Koral raised to 3,200,000 and Scholten called. The flop was and Scholten checked. Koral bet 3,000,000 and Scholten folded.
Hand #121: Scholten raised to 3,200,000 and Koral called. The flop came down and Koral checked. Scholten continued for 3,500,000 and Koral called.
Koral checked the on the turn and Scholten checked behind. The river was the and both players checked again. Koral won the hand with an unknown holding.
Hand #122: Koral raised to 3,200,000, Scholten three-bet to 9,600,000 and Koral called. The flop was and Scholten bet 4,600,000. Koral called.
The turn brought the and Scholten checked. Koral bet 8,500,000 and Scholten called.
The river was the and Scholten checked. Koral checked behind and Scholten showed for king-high. Koral turned over for ace-high and raked in the massive pot.
Hand #123: Scholten raised to 3,200,000 and Koral folded.
Players will take a short break now before returning to play heads up.
Hand #118: Freek Scholten shoved all in from the small blind and was met by a quick call from Barry Shulman.
Shulman was in with the worst of it as they headed into the flop, with his wife Allyn calling for "an ace for my baby!"
The poker Gods may not have heard as there was no ace on the board but it was an interesting board nonetheless. Though Scholten had hit his set, it was accompanied by a sweat, as Shulman had picked up an open-ended straight draw and running flush outs.
The turn was a , putting the flush hopes to bed and the river was a , denying Shulman his third bracelet. He received $239,187 for his third-place finish, putting him over the $5.5M mark in lifetime winnings.
Hand #116: Tom Koral opened the button and Freek Scholten three-bet all in for 52,000,000, which got folds from both his opponents.
Hand #117: A walk for Scholten.